Quick Links: Festivals in Review

We consider ourselves lucky if there’s one accordion festival going on during a given weekend; two festivals is practically an embarrassment of riches. And yet, that was the case last weekend. While the International Accordion Festival took over rainy San Antonio, some trailblazers in Southern California hosted the first-ever Orange County Accordion Festival.

Quick Links: Tide You Over Edition

It may seem quiet around here lately, but we’ve actually been working feverishly behind the scenes on a new Let’s Polka project. We’re still applying the finishing touches but, in the meantime, here are a few links for those in need of an accordion fix:

Quick Links: Accordion Potpourri

You know how on Jeopardy they occasionally have a category called “Potpourri,” which is just a random collection of answers that don’t fit together at all? Every now and again, I’ll end up with a similar smorgasbord of interesting accordion links that don’t really fit together, but I still want to share. Well, today, I’m Alex Trebek and this is my “Potpourri”…

  • Concert Review: Main Squeeze Accordion Festival
    If you missed the 4th annual Main Squeeze festival in New York earlier this month, this detailed review is the next best thing. Includes recaps of performances by Musette Explosion, Eternal Tango, Liony Parra y la Mega Mafia Tipica, and more.
  • WNYU Radio: Angry Accordion Shout Alongs
    The title is a little misleading — a few tracks are fairly mellow, and others don’t actually have an accordion — but this recent radio show from WNYU features some great gypsy punk, gypsy electronica, and Eastern European rock. You can listen to the full two-hour program online (click “Play Now”).
  • Lady Accordion
    Here’s a fun website premise: Heidi is learning to play the accordion and, along the way, she’s holding “Name That Tune”-style contests using videos of herself playing. Great inspiration for anyone who’s been thinking of picking up the accordion.
  • The “No Accordions” Sign
    From Toronto’s Accordion Guy comes this bone-chilling sign, apparently posted by a Dutch cafe owner to keep accordion-playing gypsies away.

Quick Links: One-of-a-Kind Accordions

  • Coin-Operated Accordion Arcade Jukebox
    Wow. I’m not sure where to start with this — it’s basically a jukebox/player accordion that sits on top of a barrel. Load music rolls in the barrel, drop a quarter in the slot and marvel as the automated accordion squeezes out classic tunes. Watch this video for a demonstration, but be warned — bidding starts at just under $4,000.
  • Topaz-1: Cold War Electro-Accordion
    Your fancy MIDI accordion is nothing new; Russian accordionists were squeezing electronic accordions (or bayans) back in the 1950s. This model had a built-in loudspeaker and amplifier, tremolo and vibrato frequency control, and more. Look ma, no bellows!
  • The Flaco Jimenez Signature Accordion
    Hohner has a new limited-edition version of its Corona II accordion, developed in collaboration with the legendary Flaco Jimenez. The accordion is tuned to match Flaco’s unique sound, has a noise reduction fingerboard, and sports a shiny gold finish complete with Flaco’s signature.

Quick Links: Polka Grammy Backlash

Last week’s news about the elimination of the polka Grammy brought the polka sympathizers out of the woodwork…

  • The Grammys Bite Polka
    Humorist Barry Mitchell (“Accordion Guy” on ABC’s World News Now) takes to the streets with this bouncy rant against the Grammys.
  • Is Polka Out of Step?
    Nice editorial from the LA Times: “The Grammy snobs might think that polka’s three-quarter time is up. But this is a genre that’s been around for more than a century longer than rock ‘n’ roll… it will proudly waltz on.”
  • Defending the Polka
    Great interview with Mark Halata of Houston polka band Texavia about Texas Czech polka, its origins and influences, and its place in the 21st century.
  • Polka Grammy Outrage
    Entertainment Weekly interviews 18-time polka Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr, who explains why the Grammys have made a terrible mistake.

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Quick Links: The Lighter Side

Quick Links: From Russia With Love

  • CBS News: Accordions in Russia
    CBS News goes to Russia and finds a culture that embraces the accordion, with virtuosos like Valery Kovtun selling out concerts and young students lining up for lessons. The segment includes an interview with jazz accordion legend Art Van Damme during a recent trip to Moscow.
  • The Russia Journal: Amassing Accordions
    The “most accordion-obsessed person in the former Soviet Union”, Alfred Mirek has collected thousands of accordions and accordion-related objects over the past fifty years. Mirek has compiled an accordion encyclopedia, created a classification chart, and maintains that the accordion really originated in Russia, not Germany. Part of his collection is currently on display as part of the Moscow City Museum.
  • Russian Garmoshka
    The garmoshka (or garmon) is a type of Russian button accordion. The standard button arrangment is known as “25×25”: 25 treble buttons in two rows and 25 bass buttons in three rows.

Quick Links: Oh Canada!

Once again, we spotlight our hockey and accordion-lovin’ neighbors:

  • Accordion Revolution
    Great pair of interviews that focus almost entirely on accordion-playing. One with our old favorite Geoff Berner (touring in support of his new album, Klezmer Mongrels) and the other with Felicity Hamer of the United Steelworkers of Montreal.
  • Joanna Chapman-Smith
    Like Geoff Berner, Joanna is another klezmer-influenced accordionist from Vancouver. She combines jazzy vocal stylings with acoustic roots instrumentation, killer clarinet lines and accordion flourishes, a touch of modern jazz and a touch of cabaret.
  • Walter Ostanek Band
    Canada’s Polka King finally has a website (and blog) worthy of his title. I really like the videos — Walter is warm, genuine, and, of course, an incredible accordion player.

Quick Links: Super Bowl Edition

  • Pittsburgh Steelers Polka
    I don’t really have a rooting interest in Sunday’s game, but Happy Louie’s rendition of the “Pennsylvania Polka” with Steelers-themed lyrics makes me want to break out my Terrible Towel.
  • Arizona Accordion Club
    Just so Cardinals fans don’t feel slighted… the Arizona Accordion Club has one of the best accordion club websites we’ve seen and even offers scholarships for young accordionists.
  • 31st Annual Concertina Bowl
    Every year in Blaine, MN, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, dozens of chemnitzer concertina players gather for 12 hours of nonstop concertina music. This year’s featured band is Gilly Maus and the Country Polkateers.

Quick Links: Post-Holiday Edition

No unifying theme for today’s Quick Links, except that they’ve all been kicking around my inbox since the holidays…

  • Player/Repairman Tom Bruno Passes Away
    Sad news about the sudden death of Tom Bruno, owner of Bruno Accordions in New Kensington, PA. Not only was Bruno an expert craftsman and one of the nation’s finest accordion repairmen, but he was a fantastic player, renowned for his renditions of Charles Magnante’s works. He was just 36 years old.
  • From Berlin’s Hole of Forgottenness, a Spell of Songs
    The curious story of Bruno S., who flirted with German movie stardom in the early 1970s and is now playing accordion on the streets of Berlin. (Don’t miss the video on the article’s second page.)
  • Spektrum Lab: “Outside the Box”
    “Put away any pre-conceived notions of what an accordion album might sound like.” Samples and loops abound on a unique album from Spektrum Lab that could easily have been titled “MIDI Accordions Gone Wild.”

And one quick Let’s Polka note — after making some behind-the-scenes improvements to our accordion events calendar, we now have over 250 events posted nationwide and the list is growing daily. Have an accordion concert, festival, or gathering to add? Want your band’s gigs listed? Let us know!

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